If you want to boost a site’s SEO, you need a good link building strategy. Why? The internet is made up of links. They connect all our bits of content and help us get from a funny video to the info we’re looking for. That’s why links are a crucial part of search engine optimization.
Why Do Links Matter?
Links are a basic component of the web. They enable us to navigate from site to site and page to page. In a book or magazine, you have to turn the page to get to the next thing. But a link takes that concept into the digital age by not just taking you to the next linear thing, but to anything the page creator deems relevant.
So a link can take you to helpful information or a funny side note or a source with deeper information on a specific topic. Links are why we can get lost on the web for hours. You went to check movie times but you ended up down a rabbit hole of related projects and upcoming movies and an obscure actor’s side project and now you’re looking at the history of roadside attractions in South Dakota.
Links connect content and control movement and influence. They’re powerful. Your link building strategy starts with understanding the importance of links.
Here’s why links matter:
- Links are a major ranking factor for SEO.
- Links help humans find great content.
- Links help search engines find great content.
- Links give helpful data to search engines that help them better understand you and your content.
- Links transfer SEO power and trust.
A Better Approach: Holistic SEO
Before we get into any specific advice about link strategy, let’s remember that good SEO is holistic. Beware: If you’re setting out to game the system, you’re going to lose.
Internal vs. External Links
Often when we think of SEO and building links, we think about other sites linking to us. That’s the flashy part of any SEO strategy because it’s other people linking to you and that’s always a nice little ego boost.
But how you link to your own content is just as important.
- External links can give you a boost and show that you’re an authority on a subject.
- Internal links to your own content tell search engines what’s most important on your site.
Don’t focus on one and neglect the other.
An important part of your link strategy is internal links. These are any links on your site that link to other content within your own site. Internal links are a signal to search engines about what content is more important.
You can get a good feel for your internal links by checking out Google Search Console. It has a whole section showing internal links. Take a look and see if your most important content is near the top. If it is, you’re already doing something right. If not, you need to work on your link strategy.
How to Do Internal Links Better
A few ways to make your internal links more effective:
- Top content: Make sure you’re linking to your cornerstone content, services, and products. That’s your most important stuff, and internal links should verify it.
- Anchor text: Link with good, keyword-rich anchor text (more on that below).
- User-friendly: Links should be helpful, so always make sure they’re readable (don’t link too much text) and don’t overuse links (it is possible to have too many links on a page).
- Avoid confusion: Be careful about pages with the same name. If you have a services page for web development you should not have a blog category for web development. Name it something else.
Anchor Text Tips
The actual text you use for a link is called anchor text, and it’s important. It should be a part of your link strategy, and here are some quick tips:
- Your anchor text should clearly describe what you’re linking to.
- If possible, include the focused keyword for the page you’re linking to. But don’t force it. The text still needs to be natural.
- Avoid “click here,” “read more,” “article,” “page,” or any other vague text. It doesn’t help human readers or search engines understand what the link is.
- Vary the anchor text for a link so it doesn’t appear fake or forced. So instead of always linking “purple puppies” for your page about purple puppies, you might use “puppies that are purple” or “purple doggies.” Give it some variety.
- Don’t link to different places with the same anchor text. A link for “web development” should always go to your web development services page, and not six different articles on web development (and one funny meme).
External LinksExternal links help search engines figure out who you are and why they should pay attention to you.
When other sites link to you, it begins to establish that you’re a trustworthy, worthwhile site. How other sites link to you (the anchor text they use), helps search engines know what topics you’re an expert in.
Obviously, you can’t create links on other sites. So your link strategy needs to get creative. But you also need to play within the rules. Don’t get so creative that you’re bending the rules and doing questionable things. That will get you in trouble.
How to Do External Links Better
- Do it organically: Instead of chasing or begging for links, earn them. Write good content. Be an active member of your community. Give people a reason to link to you.
- Know the rules: Google has clearly defined webmaster guidelines for guest posts that game the system for links in large-scale campaigns, press releases, and sponsorships. If you go after those sources, make sure you’re following the rules.
- Local SEO: Consistency is extremely important if you’re trying to build SEO for a local site. The name, address, phone number, and description should be the same. Sometimes having an address formatted differently in different places can cause problems.
- Credit links: A credit link in the footer (“designed by X”) is no longer acceptable, so either don’t do it or make it a no-follow link.
- No-nos: Link exchanges, schemes, anything automated, cramming keyword links in press releases or guest posts, and duplicate content can all land you in the SEO penalty box.
Let’s be honest: External links really happen when you’re out there earning those links. So do things such as:
- Produce good content people will read and share.
- Be active in social media and play nice.
- Attend and/or sponsor local events.
- Sponsor local sports teams.
- Speak at conferences.
- Appear as a guest on podcasts.
- Write guest posts on select sites.
- Give freely of yourself and your knowledge.
- Be part of your community.
The Best Link Building Strategy: Be HelpfulFor all the technical details and hurdles, the most important thing is to point people to good content.
Externally, if you’re being helpful, if you’re a knowledgeable voice in your space and you share those insights, you’re going to get the links.
Internally, if you’re always mindful to point to your own best content when it’s appropriate, then your good stuff will rise to the top.